How to Build Your Bones While You Sleep

Have you heard of melatonin? This naturally-occurring hormone has been in the news over the past few decades for its ability to help with jet lag and regulate sleep patterns. More recently, scientists are exploring melatonin’s positive impact on bone health and osteoporosis, yielding exciting results.

An adequate supply of melatonin can not only help you get that restful beauty sleep. It can also help you build your bones, with minimal effort. So today, you’ll discover a few simple steps you can follow to get a good night’s sleep so you can naturally maintain good melatonin levels that can maximize your bone-building success.

But first, I’d like to tell you a little more about this amazing hormone, in particular as it relates to bone remodeling. In the Save Our Bones Program, I explain how your bones continually remodel themselves. This vital mechanism that involves bone loss and subsequent new bone formation is the key to healthy bones and to the prevention of fractures. For a lighthearted look at the process, read my blog post about Oscar the Osteoclast, if you haven’t done so yet.

How Does Melatonin Help Your Bones?

Researchers noted that natural melatonin production begins to decline at around age 50, around the same time that osteoporosis is most often diagnosed. This observation led them to investigate whether reduced melatonin levels played a part in the development of osteoporosis.

Here’s a brief summary connecting the dots. In one of the earlier studies, newborn rats were exposed to fluorescent white light. The exposure to light showed lower melatonin synthesis, which was reversed by melatonin administration.1 In another study, the same researchers inhibited melatonin production in rats and found that serum concentrations of calcium also diminished.2

More specifically relating to bone health, Z. Ostrowska et al. found a fascinating link: that exposure to varying lighting conditions has a direct effect on bone physiology. They looked at the biochemical markers of bone metabolism and determined that the levels of these markers increased on short days or days with less light.3

In terms of fracture risk, a study by Feskanich et al. looked at more than 38,000 postmenopausal women and found that those who had worked night shifts for long periods of time, disturbing optimal melatonin secretion patterns, were at increased risk of wrist and hip fractures.4

Indeed, maintaining adequate melatonin levels is increasingly becoming a necessary component in both bone formation and in the prevention of excessive bone resorption.

How to Make Your Own Melatonin

There have not yet been any clinical trials looking into supplemental melatonin as a therapeutic tool in osteoporosis treatment, and I don’t recommend supplementation. After all, it is a hormone, so taking melatonin – and especially long-term supplementation – could artificially offset the delicate balance that your system needs.

But there are simple steps you can take to naturally increase your body’s ability to synthesize this important hormone:

  • Sleep in a dark room, because light disrupts melatonin production. If there are light sources you can’t control, you might consider wearing a sleep mask.
  • Make sure you get at least seven full hours of sleep.
  • “Power down” before bedtime. Try to turn off the computer and the television at least an hour before you turn in.
  • Get regular exercise. One study found that an hour on a stationary bicycle could increase melatonin levels up to three times.5 This is just an example; it doesn’t mean you need to use an exercise bicycle – it just points up the value of exercise in melatonin production.5
  • Meditate or do some form of deep relaxation before you go to bed. A study found that a period of meditation greatly increased night-time plasma melatonin levels.6
  • Get some sun during the day. Sunlight inhibits melatonin production, so getting sun exposure during daylight hours gives your pineal gland (which produces the melatonin) a rest so it can spring into action at night.
  • Try to eat foods that contain melatonin. Mustard seeds, alfalfa and sunflower seeds, fennel seeds, and lemon verbena all contain a good amount of melatonin. Oats, tomatoes, corn, and barley, also contain melatonin, but not as much.

So enjoy a restful night and peace of mind, knowing that you’re building your bones as you drift off into a bone-healthy sleep.

Sweet dreams!

References

1 D. O. Hakanson and W. H. Bergstrom, “Phototherapy-induced hypocalcemia in newborn rats: prevention by melatonin,” Science, vol. 214, no. 4522, pp. 807–809, 1981.
2 D. O. Hakanson, R. Penny, and W. H. Bergstrom, “Calcemic responses to photic and pharmacologic manipulation of serum melatonin,” Pediatric Research, vol. 22, no. 4, pp. 414–416, 1987.
3 Z. Ostrowska, B. Kos-Kudla, B. Marek, and D. Kajdaniuk, “Influence of lighting conditions on daily rhythm of bone metabolism in rats and possible involvement of melatonin and other hormones in this process,” Endocrine Regulations, vol. 37, no. 3, pp. 163–174, 2003.
4 D. Feskanich, S. E. Hankinson, and E. S. Schernhammer, “Nightshift work and fracture risk. The Nurses’ Health Study,” Osteoporosis International, vol. 20, no. 4, pp. 537–542, 2009.
5 http://jbr.sagepub.com/content/12/6/568.abstract
6 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301051100000351

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27 comments. Leave Yours Now →
  1. Marianne. February 25, 2018, 2:20 pm

    Cherry juice is high in melatonin.
    Most melatonin supplements are sold in higher dosages than you should take, and I think “less is more.” So I use a pill cutter. Even a 1 mg. pill can be cut into quarters and more.

  2. Orquestra December 7, 2015, 1:29 pm

    Happy to hear that your light arrived slfeay. Yes these lights are anexcellent way to make shift work a little more bearable. Creating a perfectlight-use protocol for shiftwork is challenging and can often take a fewweeks of tweaking . Given your schedule and geographic location thequickest way to benefit from using the light is to use it for 45 minuteswhen you wake up and start your day. You should also slowly work up tousing it for that length of time. Start at 15 minutes and add 10 minutes ofexposure every 3 days. You will feel great while using it and if you arelike most people, you will feel a nice burst of energy about 30 minuteslater. It is best not to use the light too close to bedtime, whether this is in theAM or PM. Using a light while on your shift is also a great way to helpyour body. Simply keep the light on during the first 10 hours of your 12hour shift and then turn it off. Make sure that you are just getting ambientand not direct exposure to the light when used all shift. Direct exposurefor 12 hours is too much. Also, if you notice that it is more difficultthan usual to fall asleep, stop the exposure earlier.I have smaller light units that are much easier to bring to work. Maybe youremployer can buy one or two for the workgroup. People’s performance is oftenincreased and they make a lot less errors while using this type ofcountermeasure for shift-work. Try these tips out and let me know how they help. I can offer many moresleep coaching tips to help with shift-work and bright light use and I wouldgladly offer you a preferred coaching rate. I also offer group rates forsleep coaching sessions and would be happy to help your company out.

  3. Juvy June 25, 2013, 11:45 am

    Dear Vivian, and all members of this community,

    Thank you very much of all the very good information I have read it is very educational.

    This is about MelatoninBecause I can’t sleep well, I wet to my Doctor to ask prescription of Melatonin, I was told he couldn’t give me because it is a Homone.I love to hear from Vivian and all others who know what wrong with Melatonin,will it ruins me.

    I need some good reasons or answers.

    Thank you

    Juvy

  4. myrtlebarker@shaw.ca December 12, 2012, 4:29 pm

    THANKS AGAIN VIVIAN FOR ALL YOUR VALUED ADVISE. I AGREE WITH YOU TURN OFF

    THE T.V. & COMPUTER EARLY & GO TO READING BEFORE BEDTIME. I ENJOY ALL THE

    E-MAILS

    MERRY CHRISTMAS & A HAPPY 2013.

  5. Dr.Moamed A. Abid December 2, 2012, 4:18 am

    Thanks for your information, you gave value, useful, interest,important, and healthy information free, thanks again.
    Dr. Mohamed A. Abid

  6. Joan December 27, 2011, 4:02 am

    Thanks for you article on Melatonin. I have started giving a supplement to and elderly friend but am not sure if it is ok to keep him on them. Do you know much about this or has anyone any experience or information on taking it?
    Joan

  7. naomi mayer October 1, 2011, 9:16 pm

    Since I do have a problem with sleep at times I enjoyed your message about melatonin. I will definitely try some of the seeds. I just read about taking silica (diatomacious earth) for osteoporosis. What to you think?

  8. grace courtright September 29, 2011, 7:37 pm

    I HESITATE TO TAKE K-2 WHILE TAKEING MEDICINE
    FOR ATRIAL FIB.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA September 29, 2011, 8:22 pm

      Vitamin K can interfere with certain medications, Grace. Your best bet is to check with your doctor or pharmacist to see if there’s an issue with the medication you’re taking.

  9. Nu Ly September 29, 2011, 5:58 am

    Vivian, I had that Melatonin 3.0 mg for several months last year. Since I take the milk
    powder “Ensure” my sleeping is improved. Now no more sleeping tablet. The result of my blood
    test is very good, my calcium and Vitamine D are engough, but my ph level is 6. Sometimes I
    feel my back pain, so I need to go to the chiropracti clinic, until Nov. I’ll take a scan. thank you.

  10. Gayle September 29, 2011, 12:38 am

    Thank you for this community of support. I value all your information Vivian and appreciate the comment section.

  11. Selma September 27, 2011, 7:37 pm

    Thank you, Vivian,
    I do sleep well and probably it is because I do
    most of the things you mentioned. I used to keep doing things in the house until I went to bed . Then I was unable to sleep and too tired to do things the next day. Now I read and relax for and hour before bedtime and fall asleep quickly.
    Selma

  12. Lori September 27, 2011, 12:38 pm

    Vivian, I have also read that melatonin is one of strongest antioxidants out there, so for that reason I have been taking a 3mg. supplement before bed every night. Now I see that you say we should not be supplementing with it. Should I stop taking melatonin? Please advise and thank you!

    • Jeanann Watkins August 7, 2012, 1:22 pm

      Dr. Joseph Mercola has a website wherein I learned that if you take melatonin as a supplement, you will train your body not to make melatonin on its own. Therefore, you really need to get your melatonin from the food you eat. Here’s to your continued health quest.

  13. Ruby Shedlock September 26, 2011, 7:44 pm

    Vivian,
    Thanks for the information on Melatonin. I have a lot of trouble sleeping and will try the foods first.

  14. LESLIE September 26, 2011, 2:52 pm

    Hi! Vivian,

    Thank You VERY MUCH For Telling Us About Melatonin, And How It SAVES OUR BONES! THIS WAS A VERY GOOD ARTICLE!

    LOVE, MS. L.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA September 26, 2011, 4:59 pm

      I’m glad you liked it, Ms. L! 🙂

  15. Diane Martinson September 26, 2011, 10:39 am

    I’ve been using Midnites to cut down on Lunesta since menopause hit 9 years ago. They disolve in your mouth so you don’t need to get up for water, hopefully they’ll help my bones too. But if they can be a problem using every night I will try to cut down.

  16. Avis Mawson September 26, 2011, 10:13 am

    I have been using Melatonin for many years. Sometimes I have trouble sleeping and I take a Melatonin and it puts me to sleep in about 10 minutes. I use the sublingual tablets. It has a very pleasant taste and does not leave you feeling groggy the next day. I was not aware that it helped my bones. Thank you for that information.

  17. Kathy September 26, 2011, 10:11 am

    Can a person take too much melatonin for sleep? The supplement that I take has 3mg.in it, but it does not help me sleep. Should I take more than one tablet?

  18. joyce September 26, 2011, 8:11 am

    Vivien,
    MY daughter has Sjogren’s disease & takes steroids most fo the time, Plaquenil for calming down teh immune system, etc. She is drinking Rice milk because she does not like almond milk. Can you PLEASE give us info on how to help her increase her calcium in her bones-seh is dairy intolerant. She is 39 yr old & has Osteopenia in her spine & other areas. Please advise. Joyce S. MO.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA September 26, 2011, 4:15 pm

      Joyce, it’s actually a good thing that your daughter is dairy intolerant since I don’t recommend consuming dairy products (except fermented ones like yogurt & kefir), and they’re not a good source of calcium. I debunk the “milk myth” in detail in this blog post: https://saveourbones.com/osteoporosis-milk-myth/

      And if you haven’t already read it, check out my free Ultimate Calcium Guide (https://saveourbones.com/the-ultimate-calcium-guide/) for more info about calcium.

      Of course, your daughter should check with her doctor. I wish her the best in dealing with this difficult condition!

    • adam September 26, 2011, 12:02 pm

      I have seen some studies on high doseage Vit K2, for people on steroids, to counterbalance their effect on bones. However vitamin K2 can thicken blood, so first i suggest asking doc for test (dont remember name) that tests a person for tendency to clot too much (u want to avoid thrombosis). If blood work shows her tendency to over clot is not too bad, then introduce perhaps half a capsule of Carlson’s Vit. K2. They come in capsules of 5mg. Just open the capsule and take half a day. And then have her monitored 4 weeks later to make sure her blood is not overly clotting (that’s an effect of Vitamin K, so u wanna be cautious)

  19. Angela Tischler September 26, 2011, 7:35 am

    Thanks for the advice. My insomnia and bone loss seem to go together

  20. Feona September 26, 2011, 4:40 am

    I’m going to make a real effort to turn off the telly and/or computer earlier than I do. Thanks, Vivian, for more fascinating information.

  21. jeanann watkins September 26, 2011, 4:30 am

    long, long time ago (12 yrs.), i started working the midnite shift at the post office and shortly thereafter was annoyed with the condition called insomnia; my research lead me to start making a smoothie before bedtime consisting of plain yogurt, banana, and frozen cherries; but i don’t recollect you suggesting this. why? my research tells me cherries and bananas are the best natural sources for melatonin and there’s a compound in bananas that prevent a spike in your blood sugar so they won’t make you fat

    p.s. love your website with its enduring advice

  22. irene karas September 26, 2011, 3:10 am

    This information on melantonin is very interesting… did not know it.

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